I Will, Protect This House

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Baltimore has arrived as a sports town. Though Baltimore is known as it is portrayed in the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire, which is to say a bit gritty and corrupt, that is now the past. Baltimore has been making positive strides for years but even those successes were of the small, ‘oh-good-for-you’ kind of way. Those days are over thanks to in large part to sports.

Over the course of this past year, Baltimore grew up. The gritty city created a culture of winning where success was expected and levels of expectation have risen. In fact, many of these winning ways often came at the expense of my beloved Boston and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Take for example the plucky Orioles. Last year they, not the Red Sox, won 93 games and finished 2nd in the ever tough AL East. Or take the hard-nosed Ravens. They, not the Patriots, stood tall in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl, incredibly knocking out Brady and company in the process. Wow. Good thing they don’t have any other professional sports teams

And yet, the biggest achievement in the world of athletics for Baltimore isn’t on the field but off of it. The biggest player to break through is the sports apparel company Under Armour.  Ten years after its inception, Under Armour is now poised to become the next  big player on the global sports scene. Built in the Baltimore’s backyard, this company exhibits the hard work and determination of the city, and its inhabitants, that it is a part of.

It wasn’t that long ago that Under Armour was just announcing its presence as a technology-based, high performance athletic apparel company. Before it had celebrity endorsements, it had unknown athletes promoting the brand though the still memorable “Protect this House!” campaign. If you don’t remember the commercials, here is a quick trip down memory lane…

That commercial came out 7 long years ago. Today’s Under Armour has matured significantly but the tone and inherent athlete-in-you power is still present. This toughness, this aggressive tone seems to perfectly capture the city it calls home. More importantly, Under Armour continues to grow, incrementally, through the unique viewpoint it offers which is of tech-based, make you better products that seem targeted for only the most serious athletes. Like other companies that grew from one initial goal, like New Balance was when it made its start in Boston under the shoe arch focus, Under Armour is consistent with who it is and uses that self-definition as a launching pad.

Growth has been constant but Under Armour is still hungry and they want more! Not surprisingly given the brand culture, they are directly challenging the biggest sports company in the world, Nike, head on though I doubt they are scared. In fact, Fast Company just dubbed Nike the #1 most innovate company of 2013 primarily for the innovative new product they launched like the uber-successful Nike Fuel Band. This  game changing product has garnered incredible buzz, wonderful reviews and further established the cult following it holds. See for yourself what the fuss is all about…

Pretty impressive right? Well, yes absolutely, but Under Armour doesn’t seem to care. Instead of being intimidated, they are coming at Nike full steam. In their first truly global effort, Under Armor is launching  massive global advertising campaign. They are ditching the old “protect this house” mantra and are going with “I Will” instead. Sounds a bit like Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan to me but irregardless, the simplicity and accessibility is smart and, more importantly, it is ready for take off. Watch their new commercial:

Seems likes a direct attack at the Fuel Bands, doesn’t it? Fusing the bands with the chest straps to go further is bold but, if successful, it will attract serious athletes to use it – as evidenced by the extreme sport attachment. Under Armour is essentially the Red Bull of sports.

Perhaps more casual, everyday users will stay with Nike’s offering but Under Armour is embracing the cool yet aggressive positioning it has and wants to maintain. And, with big name athletes like Boston’s own Tom Brady and young stars like John Wall in the fold, Under Armour is ready to take on Nike for global positioning domination.

But the world is not enough. Under Armour wants to think long-term. They want to plan for the future and to even imagine how it could look, with their products of course. then the future. Don’t worry Wall-E, the future won’t be a bunch of obese lards if Under Armour has anything to do with it…

Your move Nike!

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